Living with Chronic Disease

At Mindscape Health Services, Dr Kate Neilson (Clinical Psychologist) has over 15 years research and clinical experience working with adults with a range of chronic diseases, including :

  • Cancer
  • Back pain
  • Arthritis
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Endometiosis
  • Mental health conditions

To see a list of Kate’s research publications, please refer to the references at the end of this page. 

What is a chronic disease?

Chronic diseases are long-lasting and can have persistent effects throughout a person’s life1.  The four most common chronic diseases are cancer, cardiovascular diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and type 2 diabetes1.  However, there are many other chronic diseases that can have a long-lasting impact on someone’s quality of life. 

Chronic disease in Australia

50% of Australians report having at least one common chronic condition, and 23% of Australians report two or more chronic conditions2

Impact of a chronic disease

A diagnosis of a chronic disease can involve coping with diagnostic tests, impact on identity and body image, as well as the emotional reaction to a diagnosis. 

In the longer-term, living with a chronic disease can involve making adjustments to independence, routine, living with uncertainty, loss of enjoyable activities, impact on roles and relationships and managing ongoing therapies to treat the condition3

These impacts can occur with ongoing symptoms of the chronic condition, such as disturbed sleep, fatigue and/or pain. 

These adjustments can be an enormous challenge.

How can a psychologist help?

Some people benefit from the support of a psychologist at different stages of diagnosis and adjustment accompanying a chronic disease.  Specific issues that a psychologist can assist adults experiencing a chronic condition with include:

  • Depressions
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Trauma
  • Fatigue
  • Relationships
  • Pain Management
  • Body Image concerns
  • Existential issues such as death, meaning and identity
  • Grief and loss
  • Sleep issues
  • Living with uncertainty

Contact Kate by calling her on 0479 157 194 or click on the contact button below:


1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2016). Chronic Diseases. Available from:
2. Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2015). National Health Survey: first results 2014–15. ABS cat. no. 4364.0.55.001. Canberra: ABS.
3. Leong, F.T.  (2008).  Encyclopaedia of Counseling.  SAGE Publications Inc: California, USA. 
4. Neilson, K., Ftanou, M., Monshat, K., Salzberg, M., Bel,l S., Kamm, M.A., Connell, W., Knowles, S.R., Sevar, K., Mancuso, S.G.& Castle, D. (2016).  A controlled study of a group mindfulness intervention for individuals living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease.  Inflamm
Bowel Dis,
22(3), 694-701. 5. Pollard. A., Burchell, J.L., Castle, D., 5. Neilson, K., Ftanou, M., Corry, J., Rischin,D., Kissane, D., Krishnasamy, M., Carlson, L.E.  (2016).  Individualised mindfulness-based stress reduction for head and neck cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy of curative intent: A descriptive pilot study.  Eur J Cancer Care, 26(2). 122-123. 
6. Neilson, K., Pollard, A., Boonzaier, A., Corry, J., Castle, D., Smith, D., Trauer, T.,  & Couper, J.  (2013).  A longitudinal study of distress (depression and anxiety) up to 18 months after radiotherapy for head and neck cancer.  Psycho-oncology, 22(8), 1843-8
7. Neilson, K., Pollard, A., Boonzaier, A., Corry, J., Castle, D., Gray, M., Mead, K., Smith, D., Trauer, T., & Couper, J.  (2010).  An investigation of psychological distress (depression and anxiety) in people with head and neck cancer.  Medical Journal of Australia, 193 (5), s48-51.